On Jan. 22, Marvel Comics shipped Miracleman #1 to comics shops across America. Miracleman isn’t a very well-known character, but he is one with a rich history, one whose book has boasted some of the finest talent in the biz and one who has attracted a bajillion lawyers.

“A bajillion is a great many lawyers,” you may say. “I doubt very much that statement is accurate in an objectively determined manner.” I understand your skepticism, so let me relate The True Story of Miracleman (And Why You Should Care).

The tale of Miracleman begins, as do most comic-book histories in one way or another, with the debut of Superman in 1938. That premiere, in Action Comics #1, sold so many comic books and made so much money that it single-handedly transformed comic books from a fad into an industry. Every nickel-and-dime publisher in New York City decided to publish their own “mystery man” – they weren’t called “superheroes” yet – using Superman as a template.

Naturally, National Publications – the publisher of Action Comics, now known as DC Comics – took exception to action heroes that were too similar to the Man of Steel. For example, they quickly sued out of existence a red-suited hero named Wonder Man in 1939.

And when Fawcett Publications fielded their own red-suited superhero in 1940, National’s lawyers swung into action again. They charged that Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, a boy who changed into an adult superhero by saying the magic word “Shazam,” was a copyright infringement of Superman, an alien from another planet who had super-powers due to pseudo-scientific reasons.

Unlike the owners of the unfortunate Wonder Man, though, Fawcett fought back. And that lawsuit dragged on in court until 1953, by which time Captain Marvel wasn’t making very much money any more, so Fawcett threw in the towel. As part of a settlement, Fawcett agreed to get out of the funnybook business.

That left a UK publisher named L. Miller & Son in a bind. They had been reprinting Captain Marvel material in the UK, and those books were big sellers. So they turned to the preposterously named Mick Anglo to write and draw new Captain Marvel stories, but with a variety of changes to avoid National’s lawyers. Captain Marvel, for example, became Marvelman, Captain Marvel Jr. became Young Marvelman, Mary Marvel became Kid Marvelman, and so forth.

Miller & Son continued publishing Marvelman adventures until 1966 – but Anglo left in 1960, claiming he owned the character. Anglo even published a couple issues of Marvelman with the name changed to “Captain Miracle” – foreshadowing trouble to come.

Which is complicated. Try to follow me here.

In 1982, editor Dez Skinn of UK publisher Quality Communications decided to update the Marvelman concept for an adult audience in Warrior magazine. He brought in a kid named Alan Moore – now one of the most celebrated writers in all comic-dom – and superstar artist Gary Leach to do the job, splitting the rights four ways (including Quality). Later those rights were further split with Leach’s replacement, another superstar artist named Alan Davis.

But evidently Skinn had never gotten the rights in the first place, at least not the ones disputed by Anglo. Further, the lawyers for Marvel Comics, who objected to the word “Marvel” in any title, started making snarly noises. The five putative owners of Marvelman couldn’t come to an agreement on how to proceed, and Marvelman ended with Warrior #21.

Meanwhile, U.S. publisher Eclipse Comics bought some kind of rights from Skinn, and began publishing the Marvelman stories in America, with the word “Miracle” substituting for “Marvel” everywhere, to avoid those snarly Marvel lawyers. When the UK material ran out (with Miracleman #6), Eclipse hired Moore to continue the story. When Moore finished his story (with issue #16), he passed the baton – and whatever rights he possessed – to a kid named Neil Gaiman, another guy who went on to amazing success and acclaim.

Gaiman planned three six-issue “books,” to be titled Golden Age, Silver Age and Dark Age, whereupon the Miracleman story would be finished. But with issue #24, only two issues into the Silver Age “book,” Eclipse went bankrupt. The rights to all its properties, including Miracleman, were bought at auction by Todd “Spawn” McFarlane, another pretty famous guy.

Gaiman started writing for McFarlane’s comics, but maintained that he retained the rights to Miracleman. McFarlane asserted that he owned the rights instead. Guess what happened?

That’s right, another lawsuit! McFarlane and Gaiman went to court in 2001, and that’s where Miracleman has been ever since.

Well, until 2009, when Marvel Comics (them again!) announced they had bought the rights to Marvelman/Miracleman from Mick Anglo (him again!). And in 2013, Marvel announced that it had further buttressed their claim (they didn’t say how), and would begin reprinting Miracleman until the original material ran out, whereupon Gaiman (him again!) would finish the story. Moore (him again!) says he no longer owns any rights, and has insisted his name be left out of the credits (which now refer to him, weirdly, as “The Original Writer”).

Now you may be saying “Is any comic book worth this kind of agita?” And the short answer is “Yes.” I first read Eclipse Miracleman comics in the 1980s, and have never forgotten them. In fact, a number of industry talking heads maintain that no creator ever forgot them, because the amazing creativity, sophisticated suspense, astounding plot twists and stark brutality of the series changed how comics were written. I won’t go that far – I consider the bulk of 1990s comics to be unreadable – but Miracleman was pretty spectacular.

In this story, instead of child radio reporter Billy Batson saying “Shazam” and becoming Captain Marvel, adult newspaper reporter Micky Moran shouts “Kimota” (“atomic” backwards, sorta) to become a superhero on par with Superman. The first issue begins with Moran, who has amnesia about being a superhero that nobody else remembers, suffering from recurring dreams about flying, and an elusive word he can’t remember. When he does re-discover “Kimota,” it sends him on a journey to find out the hows and whys of his transformation, and why nobody remembers Miracleman, which results in one heckuva exciting story, far more than you’d expect from the silly froth Mick Anglo wrote for children.

Moreover, Moran discovers Kid Miracleman had never forgotten his transformational word – and had retained super-powers in secret as he grew up, becoming a murderous sociopath in the process. Only one person has a ghost of a chance of stopping him: Captain Marvel. I mean, Marvelman. I mean, Miracleman!

Or maybe some lawyers. Because, as we’ve seen, the only thing that can reliably stop a superhero is a bajillion lawyers. OK, maybe not a bajillion. But a lot!

Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com.

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...BTW , Captain , I was interested to hear of the original serie4s continuing into 1966 .

  I had rather liked the concept of the UK series winding down just as the symbol of a new UK pop culture era was preparing to manifest itself generally . Was it like , um , cheap reprints ~ for the poorer markets in the North of England and Ireland , say ????????? Just asking .

  Oh , and are those " Captain Miracle " issues till in limbo ?????????

  Oh , and WHY THE FRACK is Marvel reverting to the " MIRACLEman " rewrite , anyway ? Hello ??????????? So they can " have the ORIGINAL name , RESTORED !!!!!!!!!!! " on the books ?

  Arguably , why (I think) colorize , anyway ?

  What , they figure they have to many " Marvel..."-named characters ??? Shurely not !!!!!!!!!!!

I don't mind them using the Miracleman name, because Marvelman was genuinely terrible -- I only managed to read half of Marvel's first HC collecting Mick Anglo's Marvelman -- plus, for all intents and purposes, Miracleman was a new and different character, with his own origin and everything.

I managed to get most of the Eclipse issues back in the '80s.  MIssed issue 15,but got the TPB that included that one.  Had no idea how valuable they would become later on, largely due to the legal issues keeping them out of print for so long, but I don't plan on selling them anyhow even knowing their value will likely diminish as the stories become available again.  What I'm really anxious for is to be able to obtain the Gaiman issues I missed and for Gaiman and Buckingham or another stellar artist to complete the story they started so long ago!  Possibly the greatest cliffhanger, or at least the longest, in comics history. 

I think reading the Mick Anglo story in the first Eclipse issue of Miracle Man was enough for me, but I did enjoy how Moore managed to make it fit so well with his first, ahem, Marvel Man story.  Have no idea how much Moore tweaked the dialogue on Anglo's original -- were the super-science villains really from the far distant future of, uh, 1981 in the original from comic from 1956?
 
Captain Comics said:

I don't mind them using the Miracleman name, because Marvelman was genuinely terrible -- I only managed to read half of Marvel's first HC collecting Mick Anglo's Marvelman -- plus, for all intents and purposes, Miracleman was a new and different character, with his own origin and everything.

Doggone it, I was hoping I could answer your question, Fred, but when I found time to check my one and only Marvelman Classic collection, I found it doesn't contain a story about super-science villains from the future. Maybe someone with a stronger constitution than I managed to get through volume 2!

As far as I can tell, the story was "Marvelman Family and the Invaders from the Future", and first appeared in Marvelman Family #1 from L. Miller & Son.(1) This was one of the stories reprinted in the 1984 Marvelman Special #1 from Quality Communications, Warrior's publisher.

 

The GCD has contents lists for the six Marvelman Family's Finest volumes. It doesn't list the story as reprinted in one of them.

 

A thread on this message board titled "Marvelman Returns in June" has images of two pages from the story in a B&W version.(2) The first page has a 1984 copyright to Mick Anglo. I take this to mean the pages are from the story's appearance in Marvelman Special #1. The second page corresponds to the one reproduced from the Miracleman #1 (Eclipse) version in this review, and the comparison indicates dialogue was changed for the Miracleman #1 version. In the B&W version of the page panel 3 the soldier says he and the others come from "the future"; in the colour version he says they come "from 1981, decades in your future!" In the B&W version of the page panel 4 another soldier declares that Paris has fallen "to Garrer"; in the colour version he says "to the Science Gestapo". The inset panel on the first page of the story in the B&W version represents Garrer and his men as coming from "the far future".

The story was not used as a lead in to the first Alan Moore "Marvelman" instalment when the latter originally appeared, in Warrior #1. The GCD dates Warrior #1 as from March 1982, which explains the choice of 1981. I would guess Alan Moore was responsible for the changes, but that's just a guess.

The GCD's page on Miracleman #1 says the story is a fake Marvelman Family story by Moore, Alan Davis and Garry Leach. I believe this is an error and apologise for retailing this error in the first version of this post. 

 

(1) This is according to this page from the "Poisoned Chalice" series. The index of Marvelman/Miracleman appearances in Kimota! The Miracleman Companion by George Khoury, which is online at Google Books, ascribes the reprint in Marvelman Special #1 to Mick Anglo and Don Lawrence but doesn't say where it originally appeared. The GCD has an image of the cover of Marvel Family #1 but no content information. It has a list of contents for Marvelman Special #1; the page mistitles the story "The Invasion from the Future".

(2) I don't seem able to link to the thread itself. It's in the forum "The Playroom" and was started Mar 23, 2010. The forum orders threads by their last posts. The current last post of this one was posted on Mar 24, 2010, and the thread currently appears on page 104 of the forum. The post does not reproduce the whole story. It also has three more pages from other stories. I am providing directions to the thread in the belief that two pages from the story falls within the parameters of fair use.

...Okay , Luke , so the openers of the Marvel MIRACLEMAN #1 is , in fact , a reiialogued vintage story ?

  I did think that it wasa  new " prelude " , as you apparently thought before , added for the Eclipse version .

  The MARVELMAN FAMILY mini-series was bought by me at the time , and I think presents (There's a book of it now .) a better sampling of the concept than the straight issue-by-issue books do ~ although I got a little sick of it by the end !

  It would appear that Anglo was maybe a better conceptualist/editor/writer than artist , for one thing .

  BTW , the version of Marvel-Mircaleman's origin presented in the legend for the first story DIFFERS than the version presented in the first full-fledged origin (I bought the new title's #1 & 2 , I don't believe I will be buying any more now , rather - Yes , CC . - tradewaiting .)
 ~ the scientist dies in the legend , goes on to another planet in the story !

  A cue for " explaining " Marvel/Miracle continuity differences ?
Luke Blanchard said:

As far as I can tell, the story was "Marvelman Family and the Invaders from the Future", and first appeared in Marvelman Family #1 from L. Miller & Son.(1) This was one of the stories reprinted in the 1984 Marvelman Special #1 from Quality Communications, Warrior's publisher.

 

The GCD has contents lists for the six Marvelman Family's Finest volumes. It doesn't list the story as reprinted in one of them.

 

A thread on this message board titled "Marvelman Returns in June" has images of two pages from the story in a B&W version.(2) The first page has a 1984 copyright to Mick Anglo. I take this to mean the pages are from the story's appearance in Marvelman Special #1. The second page corresponds to the one reproduced from the Miracleman #1 (Eclipse) version in this review, and the comparison indicates dialogue was changed for the Miracleman #1 version. In the B&W version of the page panel 3 the soldier says he and the others come from "the future"; in the colour version he says they come "from 1981, decades in your future!" In the B&W version of the page panel 4 another soldier declares that Paris has fallen "to Garrer"; in the colour version he says "to the Science Gestapo". The inset panel on the first page of the story in the B&W version represents Garrer and his men as coming from "the far future".

The story was not used as a lead in to the first Alan Moore "Marvelman" instalment when the latter originally appeared, in Warrior #1. The GCD dates Warrior #1 as from March 1982, which explains the choice of 1981. I would guess Alan Moore was responsible for the changes, but that's just a guess.

The GCD's page on Miracleman #1 says the story is a fake Marvelman Family story by Moore, Alan Davis and Garry Leach. I believe this is an error and apologise for retailing this error in the first version of this post. 

 

(1) This is according to this page from the "Poisoned Chalice" series. The index of Marvelman/Miracleman appearances in Kimota! The Miracleman Companion by George Khoury, which is online at Google Books, ascribes the reprint in Marvelman Special #1 to Mick Anglo and Don Lawrence but doesn't say where it originally appeared. The GCD has an image of the cover of Marvel Family #1 but no content information. It has a list of contents for Marvelman Special #1; the page mistitles the story "The Invasion from the Future".

(2) I don't seem able to link to the thread itself. It's in the forum "The Playroom" and was started Mar 23, 2010. The forum orders threads by their last posts. The current last post of this one was posted on Mar 24, 2010, and the thread currently appears on page 104 of the forum. The post does not reproduce the whole story. It also has three more pages from other stories. I am providing directions to the thread in the belief that two pages from the story falls within the parameters of fair use.

Emerkeith Davyjack said:

The MARVELMAN FAMILY mini-series was bought by me at the time , and I think presents (There's a book of it now .) a better sampling of the concept than the straight issue-by-issue books do ~ although I got a little sick of it by the end !

 

Thanks for clarifying that, E.D. I was mixed up between the reprint mini and the archival reprint volumes. They are Marvelman Classic and Young Marvelman Classic. Eclipse also republished some Mick Anglo Marvelman stories in the 80s.

 

Mick Anglo didn't draw all the material himself. I don't know if he made use of writers.

 

According to the International Hero site the name "Miracle Man" was used by Anglo for another character, created as "Super Hombre" for the Spanish market. The covers at the link are from the feature's Dutch version; the large colour image is from the cover of one of the English issues. The GCD lists the English version of this title as Miracle Man, published by Thorpe & Porter. It may be this is where Moore got the Miracleman name. In this part of his interview from the "Poisoned Chalice" series he says he doesn't know where he got it from. The GCD says the English Miracle Man series started in 1965, so he may have seen or read issues as a boy. Or, he may have seen an issue as an adult in a comics shop sometime.

 

The International Hero site says Anglo also refurbished Marvelman stories as Captain Miracle stories.

 

A couple of pages I looked at while researching these posts say Marvelman's name was changed to Miracleman when he was published by Eclipse for copyright reasons. I think that should be trademark reasons.

Thanks for all the research, Luke and E.D.! It appears this question, like most involving Marvelman/Miracleman, isn't easy to answer!

In the comments thread to "Poisoned Chalice" pt 9 here Dez Skinn says Garry Leach "redrew/copied out" the story. I can't see any indication of this on the two versions of that common page, though. The shadows are different on the right forearm of the trooper in panel 2 (that is, the arm with the gun), but everything else in the art I compared seemed about the same. But I didn't do an exhaustive check for differences .

Mr Skinn doesn't address who made the dialogue changes, but he does discuss who was responsible for the Nietzsche quote on the link page, and that may have been the same party. He initially takes the Nietzsche page to have been Moore's but he agrees with the "Poisoned Chalice" series author's argument against this.

http://comicsbeat.com/everyhting-you-always-wanted-to-know-miraclem...

If you go to the The Beat link above way down in the comments section (at 1-18-2014) Dave Elliott says the original story by Mick Angelo was rescripted by Steve Moore for the Quality Marvelman Special and when it was going to be used in  Miracleman #1 Alan Moore did  some more tweaking.

Awesome.

pat bortz said:

http://comicsbeat.com/everyhting-you-always-wanted-to-know-miraclem...

If you go to the The Beat link above way down in the comments section (at 1-18-2014) Dave Elliott says the original story by Mick Angelo was rescripted by Steve Moore for the Quality Marvelman Special and when it was going to be used in  Miracleman #1 Alan Moore did  some more tweaking.

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